As the game turned: With 10:30 remaining and Florida boasting its largest lead of the second half, UT juniors Jarnell Stokes and Josh Richardson took it upon themselves to end the Gator momentum.
The tandem scored UT's next eight points and positioned the Volunteers for a late game surge as Stokes' and-one conversion trimmed the Florida lead to just one with 4:32 to go.
But the Gator 3-point attack soon awoke as Michael Frazier and Scottie Wilbekin drained back-to-back treys in just more than a minute.
Wilbekin had been 0-of-5 from behind the arc before his final make, but UT head coach Cuonzo Martin still wasn't surprised to see the Florida senior sink the monumental dagger.
"That's what (Wilbekin) does late in the shot clock," Martin said. "If he can get to the rim all the way to the right, he'll get right. If not he'll probe the defense, probe them and shot that pull up 3-point shot."
The Gators continued to lean heavily on Wilbekin down the stretch. He scored eight of Florida's last nine points and went 5-of-6 from the line in the final minute.
"That is the kind of player that he is," senior Jordan McRae said. "He is a leader for their team. He hits big shots when they need it the most."
Spotlight: Despite coming off the bench for the fifth consecutive game, senior Antonio Barton took over the majority of the point guard duties Tuesday night as Martin opted for the veteran over freshman Darius Thompson.
Barton played 23 minutes — his most in nearly three weeks — and scored six points on 3-of-6 shooting.
"I thought Antonio did a good job attacking the ball screen," Martin said. "For him to score attacking that ball screen, I thought he did a good job reading that defense and making plays against that ball screen."
Thompson, who replaced Barton in the starting lineup on Jan. 29, was bothered by the Gators' stout defense all evening. The UT freshman missed his only two shots and failed to score for the second time in three games.
Hot topic: Tuesday night's loss was certainly a prime opportunity for a resume-stuffing win as the UT bubble talks would have surely quieted with a victory over the No. 3 team in the nation.
But with no more ranked teams currently on the Vols' schedule and many seemingly-winnable contests ahead, UT players admitted they know they can't afford any type of unnecessary slip-up.
"We're definitely well aware that we have to win some games," Stokes said, "because our goal is to make it to the tournament and see what happens from there."
Added Richardson: "Every game we should approach with a sense of urgency."
The other guys: Wilbekin's 21 points were a game-high as Florida extended its winning streak to 16.
Outside the box score: UT shot 52.9 percent from the free throw line (9-of-17), its worst charity stripe outing since the Vols' win over Morehead State on Dec. 23 (52.2 percent).
Say something: Stokes on the pressure leading up to high-profile games: "I can't sleep at night before games like this."
By the numbers:
2: UT had only two bench points in the second half.
29.2: The Vols shot 29.2 percent from the field in the final period.
18: Florida doubled-up UT on offensive rebounds, 18-9.
Up next: The Vols’ important week continues as they travel to Missouri on Saturday. Tipoff is slated for 4 p.m.